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Buckton, Alice Maiy 
Eager Heart 



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EAGER HEART 

A CHRISTMAS MYSTERY-PLAY 



BY 



A. M. BUCKTON 

AUTHOR OF 

"THE BURDEN OF ENGELA" "BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: A MASQCE' 
"THE PASTOR OF WYDON FELL: A BALLAD" ETC. 



CHAPPELL AND COMPANY LIMITED 

41 EAST 34TH STREET 

NEW YORK 



GOCS 



_ 

9 



INSCRIBED TO ALL WHO SEE AND 
WORSHIP THE ONE IN THE MANY 



The Design for the ewer is after BLAKE 



PERSONAGES 

EAGER HEART and her two Sisters; 
EAGER FAME and 
EAGER SENSE 

A Poor and Nameless FAMILY 

Three SHEPHERDS and a Young Man 

Three KINGS 

VISION of the HOLY FAMILY, and CHOIR OF 
ANGELS 

Unseen MUSICIANS 
PROLOGUE 

Time: CHRISTMAS EVE 
Place: EVERYWHERE 



Peculiar conditions attach to the performances of " EAGER 
HEART." (See Articles of Association.) 

Applications for permission to perform "EAGER HEART" to be made 
to the Secretary of the INCORPORATED COMPANY OF EAGER HEART, 
85 Gracechurch Street, London, E.G., from whom all particulars may 
be obtained. 



MUSIC REQUIRED FOR THE PLAYING OF 
"EAGER HEART" 

ImbiU. choir (S.A.T.B.) and orchestra of strings, *, ft**- 
(See analysis supplied by Secretary.) 

OLD CAROL: God rest you, Kerry ** ^^ 

From BACifs Christmas Oratorio, as follows:-- 
Pastoral Symphony . 
Gloria in Excelsis . 

(Or plain-song Gloria.) 
Slumber, thou heavenly child! Alto voice. 
Prepare your heart (shortened} Alto voice. 
followed at one! by chorale: -How shall I fitly meet Thee? 
Four other chorales, viz. . 

Ful! ar, the Cays - * "%*. 

I am not worthy . . ,, { Q Beauteous 



, 

rol (** to * Gained of Cov.pany) 






Company. 

STAGE NECESSARIES 

An upper, middle, and lower ( see 



An upper, me, an ( see 

fixed dark-blue **"*"** ' *$%> dresses and without 
text} illuminated ch 0l r of angeh, J** udb a descending 

wing s, with arms upraised w joy. ^^^ by ^ible cords, 
curtain. A curtain dividing to the ^f^ Steps go up from 
rests upon the top of steps a S cend^ng to mzddle stage. 
floor of auditorium to sides of lower stage. 

The lighting is from above, and from the wings. 



EAGER HEART 

A CHRISTMAS MYSTERY PLAY 

OLD CAROL \_sung by unseen choir\ 

GOD rest you, merry gentlemen ! 

Let nothing you dismay. 
Remember, Christ our Saviour 

Was born this holy day, 
To save us all from woe and sin, 

When we were gone astray. 

O the tidings of comfort let us sing ! 

In Bethlehem in Jewry 

This blessed Babe was born, 
And laid within a manger,, 

Upon that holy morn, 
The which His Mother Mary 

Did nothing take in scorn ! 

O the tidings of comfort let us sing ! 



2 EAGER HEART 

And in the heavenly places 

A blessed Angel stood, 
And unto certain Shepherds 

He told the tidings good, 
How that in Bethlehem was born 

The Child, the Son of God ! 

O the tidings of comfort let us sing ! 

PROLOGUE, an aged man, in black cap and 
gown, stands before the closed curtains, 
which represent the doors to the Dwelling 
of EAGER HEART: he speaks. 

Lo ! as Earth, her vigil keeping, 
Times the year with careful hand, 

So the watchful Soul, unsleeping, 
Marks her days by high command. 

O'er the world to-night, the nations, 
Weary, lay their griefs aside, 

And with sweet and loud laudations 
Hold the Feast of Christmastide. 

Favour, then, our simple story, 
Picturing here, with gentle art, 

How the Lord of Life and Glory 
Comes to honour Eager Heart! 



EAGER HEART 3 

PROLOGUE descends from stage by central 
steps, and seats himself at their foot, or as 
part of the audience, attentive to the play. 
Pastoral symphony is played by invisible 
orchestra: at its close, the curtains open, 
discovering EAGER HEART standing near a 
low white couch (L. ). The back of the room 
is shut off by a dark-blue gauze curtain. 
Small table (R.), with loaves of bread, a 
flask and a cup for wine : a pitcher of 
water and basin stand on floor near: 
embroidery work in a frame, and a stool; 
small lighted lamp hanging before a shrine, 
and picture, in a corner: also cage of doves. 

E. Heart. To - night the weary world is 

husht and still ! 
Out on the plains the shepherds watch; and 

we, 

Dwelling in cities, keep our doors ajar, 
Lest He should come this way, the royal 

Child, 
Two thousand years our King! Alas, to 

think , 

How many highways He must tread to-night, 
Will know Him not, nor see Him as He 

comes ! 
Yet every year, they say, even at this hour 



4 EAGER HEART 

He makes a sumptuous progress through the 

land, 

In lane and town, with guards angelical, 
Mindful of that far night, when, as a Babe, 
He begged an empty manger of the beasts, 
Because no inn, no single roof was found 
To cover Him ! So be it not to-day, 
My gracious King! Have Thou to-night 

sweet rest, 

Here, on this lowly couch ! O deign thereon 
To lay Thine infant head ! Mary and Joseph ! 
Come but your steps this way, behold the 

meal, 

The little frugal meal I saved this morn, 
With joys of fasting ! O that I might be 
Worthy, dear Lord, but once to shelter Thee ! 

[She looks up to the shrine, trims the 
light, and says, or sings slowly, 
looking before and about her, 
this meditation: then sits at her 
embroidery frame : 

Dark is the night, 
The starless night, 

The Homeless are abroad: 
O Heart, prepare 
With simple care 

A shelter for thy Lord 



EAGER HEART 

Crowned with power, 
He comes this hour, 

Remembering the day, 
When, as a child, 
In dwellings wild 

And poor, He came to stay. 

Make thou a bed 
To rest His head ; 

Its sheet be purity ; 
The pillow light, 
With tears washed white, 

Be Heart's humility. 

Much did it take 
Of thee to make 

This couch so soft and low ! 
Sighs without name, 
And many a shame, 

And tears that none may know. 

And set thy board 
To wait thy Lord 

With Bread,' that He may dine : 
Bring Water sweet 
To wash his Feet 

A Cup to mix Him Wine ! 



6 EAGER HEART 

This simple Bread, 
Alas ! was made 

Of harvests thinly sown : 
The Wine is poor ; 
But round the door 

Its purpling grapes were grown. 

No jewelled hall 
This quiet stall, 

But thatched with simple wit : 
No monarch rare 
Has sojourned here, 

But Love has lived in it. 

O Heavenly Child, 
The night is wild ! 

Come in to me, I pray ! 
Make of this heart 
This longing heart 

Thy Bethlehem to-day ! 
\_She continues humming softly to herself. 

Enter R. and L., on lower stage, the two 
Sisters, EAGER SENSE and EAGER FAME, 
the first in gorgeous apparel, the second 
in armour and helmet. EAGER SENSE 
enters the home. 

E. Sense. What! sitting late at work, and 
singing songs ? 



EAGER HEART 7 

E. Heart. My hands are busy, for my heart 

is full ; 

I sing a song of welcome to the King ! 
E. Fame. But wherefore linger here ? Think 

you He deigns 

Beneath so small a roof to bend His head ? 
How should He find this quiet street, where no 
Great chariots pass, no victory-pageants roll ? 
Kings are not wont to come in these our days 
To poor and beggared doors! This foolish 

freak 

To sit at home, and wait Him in the house, 
Is bygone fashion! Come with me, away 
Up to the terrace of the capitol, 
Where famous deeds are done, and tapestries 
Blazon the walls with tales of heroes dead ! 
There, Fame, her golden trumpet at her 

mouth, 
Governs the winds that sweep the echoing 

world : 

And men, amazed, bow lowly, worshipping ! 
E. Heart \doubtfully\. Nay, Eager Fame ! 

Think not I ask so much, 
Or dare to hope for that I scarce can name ! 
And yet a viewless voice whispered He 

comes ! 
Close at mine ear ! I heard it even now ! 

\Looks vaguely round. 



8 EAGER HEART 

E. Sense. Folly ! so wilt thou mope, even 

unto the end, 

Fed upon moonlight 'stead of merry flesh, 
Starving on sickly dreams and phantasies ! 

\_She goes to the table, and calls mockingly. 
Behold the childish meal set bravely here 
To tempt the Royal train ! Water and bread ! 
Ha! ha! and peasant grapes, that scarce 

have won 
The faintest flush of crimson [holds up flask to 

lighf\, trained by herself 
Upon the walls, and pressed with her own 

small hands ! . . . 

Come to the palace in the orange groves ! 
There the loud viol plays the night away : 
And none is sick or fasting ! Come, poor child ! 
I'll lend thee other garb and jewels ! See ! 

[Takes EAGER HEART'S head in her hands. 

This brow should bear a diadem ! This breast, 
Warm with the matchless breath of innocence, 
Should gleam in vair and velvet, winning with 

ease 
Man's open homage! [Turning to EAGER 

FAME.] Never be it said 
That Eager Sense was not of a generous mind 1 
E. Heart. Nay, Sister! leave me! I am 

well content 



EAGER HEART 9 

Wrapped in your costly robes, I lose myself. 
Yea, though the King should lodge with you 

to-night, 
I could not find the art to please Him there. 

[ Under her breath. 

Listen ! what voice was that, saying "He 

comes ! " 

Close at mine ear ? I heard it even now ! 
E. Fame. Nay then, we w r aste our trouble! 

Let us go, 

You to the Palace where the Banquet lies, 
I to the ramparts! There the answering 

tongues 

Of watchmen on the walls shout even now, 
In token of His coming, ere He come ! 

\_Exit R. 

[EAGER SENSE looks back on EAGER 
HEART standing in a rapt atti- 
tude, and stretches out her hand 
once more to her. 

E. Sense. Come, pretty wilful! Take my 
hand, be wise ! 

[EAGER HEART shakes her head: 
EAGER SENSE shrugs her shoulders 
gaily, and goes out (L.). 



10 EAGER HEART 

E. Heart [alone]. Now have I lost a chance, 

but kept my hope, 

Dearer than present gain, or handled good ! 
I part not with it now till daylight come ! 

[Listens. 

'Tis very still. The night is dead asleep ; 
Shut are the streets ! [Leans from the threshold 

and looks up.~\ Only the stars above 
Seem strangely near, as if they, listening, 

heard 
A far-off music. [Distant choirs of " Gloria " 

are heard: first eight bars.~\ Hark, what 

a sudden burst 

Of voices from the hills ! The simple folk 
Bring Him upon His way. He comes! He 

comes ! 

Sure 'twas the mighty shout of warrior-kings 
That ride with Him ! O let me forth to see, 
And mix my feet with those that throng His 

road, 
Praying that He will deign to pause Him 

here 

One moment, at my threshold, blessing it, 
Even with His look. [Goes to the shrine and 

picture^ Forgive me that I take, 
Sad Face! this little lamp from your dim 

shrine ! 
I go to meet you in the flesh ! Dear walls, 



EAGER HEART 11 

I leave you husht, expectant of a Guest ! 
Keep you all safe and spotless till He come. 

[She descends to second step, softly, 

lamp in hand, and sees approach 

from R. a poor road-maker and a 

woman, travel- stained, in humble 

garments and with broken shoes. 

The man bears an old spade and 

basket over shoulder : the woman 

bears a little child wrapped in her 

shawl.~\ 

Man. Maiden! we pray you, of your 

courtesy, 

Give us but shelter for this single night ! 
We faint from thirst and hunger by the way : 
And all the folk, it seems, have left ! The town 
Is well-nigh empty, and our strength is gone ! 

E. Heart [wondering]. These must be 

strangers, else they surely knew 
Why all men are abroad! Their dress is 

old, 

Fashioned in curious guise of other lands. 
Good folk, whence come ye,? 

Man. Tossed on these barren shores 

That are no home, refused by king and slave, 
We wander, seeking shelter ; and to-night 
We pray a humble couch that we may sleep ! 



12 EAGER HEART 

E. Heart \looking back into her home]. A 
couch I have, poor friends ! 'tis true and 
yet 

A little bread and wine, and yet and yet 
Man \lifts his hand"]. Alas, that halting 

word ! we know it well ! 
E. Heart. Nay, hear me ! These are all I 

have prepared 

For other guests ; ah, with what joys and fears ! 
Had you wandered this way but yester-night, 
Freely was yours all that I have and hold ! 
But now to-night ! Ah no, it cannot be 
That I should yield my hope so easily ! 
Man. What hope ? 
E. Heart. Perchance to house a 

Royal guest ! 
The King this hour makes progress through 

the land, 

In memory of a night, a far-off night, 
When, as a helpless Babe, He found a bed 
With beasts because no roof would cover 

Him! 

To-day He comes, the all-acknowledged King ! 
Saw you no retinue upon the plain, 
Flocking from every race, and of every tongue ? 
Man. No kingly train saw we upon the 

track : 
But tired shepherds closing up the fold, 



EAGER HEART 13 

Who stooped, and found us milk, and crusts of 

bread. 
E. Heart. But heard you not the shouting of 

the folk 

That went to meet Him ? hailing, carolling 
The King that had a manger for His bed ? 
Man. Would that a manger-stall were ours 
to-night ! 

[EAGER HEART still looks doubtfully 
at her home. The woman looks 
up at the man, and both with a 
sigh make as though they would 
pass on.'] 

E. Heart \_stretching out her hand, seeing 
they have passed her\. Stay ! saw ye not a 
palace as ye came, 

With gilded chambers, by the orange grove, 
Where lute and viol play the night away ? 
Man [turning]. We heard the lute : we 

called beside the gate ! 

Our voice they could not hear for merriment. 
E. Heart. Then, passed ye not the capitol, 

the gate 

Where sits my Sister, dealing blame and praise, 
Weighing the great and lesser deeds of men ? 
What said she to your tale ? 

Man. She spoke a tongue 



14 EAGER HEART 

We could not understand ! Her trumpets blew, 
Deafening us as we pleaded ! You alone 
You have we found, knowing our native speech 
As brother knoweth brother's ! Yet, let us go : 
Our dusty feet will stain your delicate doors ! 
E. Heart [eagerly]. Nay, speak no more ! 

It shames me ! Pray you, come ! 
Yours is the Bread, the Water, and the Wine, 
The lowly couch on which I thought to lay 
The beauty of my Lord! Enough! enough 
That you have need, and I the hand to give ! 
Be you my honoured, welcome guests to-night. 
Forgotten be all else ! my foolish dream ! 

[She descends to the lowest step, and 
gives her hand to the woman, 
helping her up. Man follows her 
slowly. A fresh burst of the 
" Gloria " (eight bars) is heard 
faintly in the distance. EAGER 
HEART is amazed at the dignity 
of her guests. They place them- 
selves at the couch, and the man 
goes to offer the woman wine from 
the little table, as if he had been 
long familiar there. 

E. Heart. Pray now forgive me if I leave 
you here 



EAGER HEART 15 

A little space. Prepare yourselves for sleep. 
Hear you the people shouting on the plains ? 
I would be gone to worship with the rest, 
Meeting the King, at least, upon His way! 

[As she looks back, descending the steps, 
the man lifts his hand to her in 
peace, and the curtains slowly meet 
before her gaze, presenting the 
closed doors, as at first. 

E. Heart \looking up at the stars"]. O star of 

heaven, so still, so pure, so high ; 
How art thou near to-night ! Is it through pity 
Thou shinest on me thus ? or is it joy ? 
Hark to the voices singing ! Let me go ! 

\_Exit R. 

Alto voice (unseen) sings as follows (with 
symphony following, to the word "fine "). 

Slumber, Thou Heavenly Child, and take 

Thy rest, 
That with Thy waking, the weary world be 

blest : 
On Thy Mother's breast, O take, O take 

Thy rest, 
And in all our hearts give Peace 1 

Curtain is withdrawn to both sides at its close, 
discovering the starlit plain, where two 



16 EAGER HEART 

shepherds lie on the ground ; strong, bearded 
men with crooks ; a younger man is feeding 
a small Jire with sticks : an old man with 
long beard sits on rocks between them, facing 
audience, with faced eyes. Back of the 
plain is shut off (as before] with dark-blue 
gauze. Frost lies on the ground: starlight 
comes from above : a fold is on the L. with 
sheep, and a thorn-bush. 
Young Man. Ay, 'tis a cruel night ! A lamb 
this hour 

Was born in the fold, a poor and plaintive 
thing, 

And yet it seems to suck ! The piteous ewe 

Made bitter bleating at the first but now 

Tis still ! 

Old Man. O ay ! the world is still to-night. 

Vender's the star of hope, that brighter shows 

On Christmas Eve ! Sure it has been the 
same 

Since I remember, lads ! and that is nigh 

On seventy year! 

[He looks to a star, R 

ist Shep. \laughing~\. Come, none of your 
old tales ! 

Old men and children needs must have their 
tales, 

Dry teats to dandle at, like thirsty lambs 



EAGER HEART 17 

Feeling their helplessness. Too long have folk 
Beguiled us all with comfortable milk 
To keep us patient, lest we should cut our teeth 
Too soon on wisdom's corn ! 

Old Man. Young man, beware ! 

You too may yet be old ! And cavernous dark 
Will be your world, if, from the shows of things, 
You gather not a story to remain, 
And sing itself, on and on, in your ears 
When sight is darkened ! 

Young Man {looking up]. Say they not, this 

night 
The King that called Himself a Shepherd 

comes 

To visit all the folds, and bless the sheep, 
Remembering the day when, as a Babe, 
He begged an empty manger and a stall, 
Because no roof was found to cover Him? 
2nd Shep. That, too, is a pretty tale ! If once 

He came, 

Men never see Him now. Where is the sign, 
In these dark years, that He remembereth ? 
Once it was said, He never will forsake ! 
Thousands believed on Him, and waiting, 

died! 
We too could worship, had we any sign ! 

Old Man. The sign He gave of old is the 

sign to-day ! 



18 EAGER HEART 

Follow it, lads ! with Eager Heart, and find ! 
ist Shep. But whither ? Hunger and riches 

everywhere 

Divide the land, like great uncleanly birds, 
Gloating on offal ! Half the world is full, 
Fat with excess : the other half, naked 
As that poor stranger passed us even now, 
Leading the woman with her new-born child, 
Who thanked us for our crusts with tears. The 

world 

Grows lawless ! If her King dwell anywhere, 
'Tis other - where ! He makes no sojourn 

here. 
Old Man. He sojourns here, my lads ! or 

not at all, 

As they with Eager Heart shall one day know, 
Finding within their doors a silent Guest ! 
Young Man. But who comes here, bearing 

a slender lamp, 

Climbing the perilous way with faltering feet ? 
Is it a ghost, or child, or wandering maid ? 
E. Heart [enters middle stage, R.]. I heard 

your voices, and I turned aside 
To know what murmuring doubts, what sullen 

words 

Did clash upon the world this blessed night. 
Shepherds ? Nay, are ye shepherds in very 

truth 



EAGER HEART 19 

Who ever brought the earliest news of dawn ? 

Have ye forgot what hymn is sung to- 
night 

Of One the angels in high heaven adore ? 
2nd Shep. Fair maiden, that was long ago. 
Our hearts 

Are sad, our ears are dull with misery. 

Others may catch that far-off song : for us 

No burst of music fills the flaming sky, 

Waking a rapturous Earth : silent she lies ! 

Since midnight watch we here, and mark no 

sound. 

E. Heart. Then, sure ye have not listened ! 
Hark again ! 

[The "Gloria" (eight bars) bursts in 
full chorus, yet as if far away : 
and the light, for a moment, 
increases on the scene. ~\ 

The three SHEPHERDS start, and look wonder- 
ingly at EAGER HEART ; she looks towards 
audience, as one listening. None look in the 
direction whence the singing comes. The 
light gradually fades with the song, till it 
ceases, in a half phrase* as at a great 
distance. 



20 EAGER HEART 

ist Shep. Can this thing be? our senses all 

are filled 

With wonder and amazement! [Tiirning to 

OLD MAN, who has remained motionless, as 

one unmoved. He is seen sitting in the 

centre of the scene.'] Hist ! old man ! 

Didst thou not hear that far and heavenly 

strain, 
Heart ravishing? 

Old Man. I've heard it all this night, 

Floating above the cities and the plains, 
Lifting the world-cry from a million throats 
Until it rolled the mighty hymn of Peace ! 
Young Man. But why stand idle here ? O 

let us haste 

Whither it went ! It goes before us still ! 
Deign, gentle maid, to be our guide! It seems 
That thou wert sent to lead in darkness. 

Come! 
E. Heart. My lamp is small, but well the oil 

has served 

Thus far. Pray, Shepherds,follow, then, with me, 
Nor doubt that we shall find ! [Goes to L. 

ist Shep. \rising~\. Come, then, old man ! 
My step and yours together ! . . . 

Old Man. Nay, my sons, 

Where would ye hasten ? Whom go ye to 
meet? 



EAGER HEART 21 

AIL We go to hail the King upon His way ! 
Old Man. The King has passed already, 

while we sat 

And prated of our ills ! I saw His Face : 
And my soul blessed Him, even as He went ! 
[They look at him in amazement, and 

make signs to each other.] 
Young Man. Nay, leave him, comrades : urge 

him not : methinks 

The eyes of age see things we only dream : 
Let us be gone, my spirit burns in me ! 

[.Exeunt L. 
\The Angel Choir glows visibly behind 

the veil, singing the chorale : 
Full are the days that should have been ! 
Accept thine aged servant now, 
And bid me part, for I have seen 
On Thy sad Earth Thy sweet Face go ! 

\The OLD MAN lifts his arms heaven- 
ward, as if he saw before him 
what appears to be behind him. 
His head drops backward, and, 
with his face to the sky, he lies 
dead on the rocks. 

After the music ceases, enter a KING (R.) in 
the prime of his age, and bearded, wear- 
ing purple robe and cloak, and the gold 
fillet of a mighty ruler. 



22 EAGER HEART 

ist King. The night is dark : yet this should 

be the place, 

The ancient trysting-ground, trodden how oft 
By the foot of mighty seekers! Hither have 

come, 
For nigh two thousand years, the Kings of the 

Earth, 

Looking for Him, the Lord of every age, 
And Answer to the world's great riddle, Man ! 

[Goes forward. 

Is man the King ? Is there no mightier? 
What heavy band is this that binds my brow ? 
Gold ! Gold ! The living ore the fierce earth 

yields 

To mark her rulers ! Men, and tribes of men, 
Bow down before me ; but I thirst to know 
If any rule be mightier than mine 
In this dim universe ! I cannot sleep ! 
Vast shadows haunt my dreams, portentous 

things 

Known to the Fates and to the solemn stars, 
Till, from my rest, I start with a piercing cry 
Where is the King, that I may worship Him? 
[Reaching arms to stars, R. holding 

out his crownJ\ 

O ye that hold the Night in breathless beauty, 
Your ways are strong, and life is strong, and 

death : 
But the will of man is stronger ! What is this 



EAGER HEART 23 

Dumb giant in us set, ready to rise 
In one stupendous act, and empty itself 
Of all it is ? Yea, in that only deed 
Know itself crowned, complete ! [Crowns him- 
self. ~\ Woe for the will 
That hath not found its King ! Staggering it 

goes 
Like yon wild meteor through th* affrighted 

night, 

While all around the heavenly bodies sing 
The rapture of their great obedience ! 

[He turns, and sees 2ND KING approach- 
ing from L., an old bearded man 
in turban, bound with the snake 
fillet of the philosopher : he bears 
a casket. They greet each other. 
2nd King. Brother, well met ! I thought not 

here to find 

Aught but myself upon this barren hill, 
So long defaced, o'ergrown with the tangled 

weeds 
Of this dark world ! 

ist King. King of the faithful watch ! 

What dreadful impotence h^s brought thee here, 
What trouble of the mind ? 

2nd King. These weary eyes 

Have watched the birth of peoples from the 
dawn, 



24 EAGER HEART 

And seen them pale o'er yonder farthest 

verge . . . 

[Looks to the horizon.] 
Returning not again ! All beasts and birds 
I question of this mystery ; yea, and would force 
The innermost secrets of the hollow earth, 
But find no comfort. Yet sometimes comes 

the sense 

Of a life beneath the changing show of things ; 
A glorious life, hiding itself in these, 
Eluding still my grasp ! Could I command 
That changeless substance once within my ken, 
Then should I know the object of my thought, 
And light transfigure all our griefs for ever ! 
Great death itself would seem no ill ; and life 
Our happy portion in the perfect play 
Of that resplendent Being ! See, my friend ! 

[Opens box. 

This precious balm I gathered as I went 
By every stream the fragrance, bitter-sweet, 
Of a gum's pelucid tears ! Within these walls, 
[Holds up a translucent lump. 
Behold, embalmed, a perfect creature, winged, 
Lovely as life, encrys tailed here for aye ! 
[Passionately] So would I hold the soul within 

my thought, 

Clear imaged, imperishable ! This myrrh 
I carry with me for my burial ! 



EAGER HEART 25 

ist King. But on this night can be no place 

for death ! 

No lord of death we seek, but the Lord of life ! 
2nd King. Then must He conquer death, or 

lose His kingdom ! 
ist King. But who is this, that comes with 

wandering eyes 
And hands of worship ? 

2nd King. Surely 'tis the King 

Of the lonely Heart, who roams from shore to 

shore ! 

[Offering incense at the woodland shrine 
Of every god and demon joining hands 
With them that hate each other, and would tear 
Each other's altars down not seeing, all, 
The one Form loved of every secret soul, 
That all do homage to the LORD OF HEARTS I] 1 
Hail, Friend ! How goes it with th' Eternal 
Quest ? 

3RD KING enters, L. A young man with an 
earnest clean - shaven face, wearing the 
spiked circlet of Inspiration, with jewels on 
the points : his hair is cut to the shoulder : 
he bears a lighted censer. 

$rd King. Brothers of Power and Wisdom, 

are ye here, 

Faithful to your high charge? Now let the 
earth 

1 Omit this passage in performance. 



26 EAGER HEART 

Have hope, when all her princes vigil keep, 
Yea, though she lie in darkness, as to-day ! 
Our feet have lost the simple starward path 
Our fathers knew. Yet on this sacred night 
Our ways have met once more. Good omen 

this 

For all men's trysting ! Listen, Brothers mine ! 
You think to find each his own answer! I, 
With secret admonitions from my youth, 
In every answer, seek, with a passionate hope, 
The Word that bodies mine and yours in one ! 
No monarch He, Type of our inmost dream 
And Moulder of the world, but One whose 

soul, 

Measuring itself in heaven, and earth, and hell, 
Utters with every breath the great desire 
Of all that lives ! Such only may I worship ! 

\He looks to keaven.~\ 

Once, in a trance, I saw Him stand, the King, 
And round His garment ran a living word 
In the tongue of every land ! That Word was 

Peace ! 

His look, the very movement of His feet, 
Was Peace whose glory 'tis, in a thousand 

forms, 

To rule by yielding die, to know and love 
Within Himself darkness and light dissolving! 
O worship of my heart, appear ! appear ! 



EAGER HEART 27 

[He stretches out his arms heavenwards, 
and prostrates himself. At his 
prayer the Angel Choir sings un- 
seen eight bars of the " Gloria' 
which fade away : all listen and 
look at each otkerJ] 

ist King. Heard you no sound ? Methought 

a shouting came 
As of a city welcoming its king ? 

2nd King. I fain would think it! \He 
turns, and sees Shepherd lying.~\ See, 
what have we here ? 
An aged shepherd, frozen at his place ! 

ist King. How like a king he looks ! Nay, 

what calm 

What simple majesty has taken seat 
Upon this brow ! Nothing can fright him 

more. 

How would a crown become him he, a 
crown ! 

2nd King \with his hand half shading his 
own eyes']. Those eyes have looked on 
more than I have seen ! 
O simple shepherd ! thou hast entered in 
Beyond the door we vainly try to pierce ! 
Here do I bow before th' initiate Dead ! 

$rd King \who has come up slowly, as one in a 



28 EAGER HEART 

dream, takes up the Shepherd's kancT\. This 
hand has toiled its seventy years ! these feet 
Have gone upon the business of the King! 
Behold the face and form of one who knew 
And ruled by love ! O Man, I worship thee ! 

[Swings his censer before him. 
Within this breast the Lord of hearts did make 
A resting-place ! Surely, ye blessed hills, 
In you the King must dwell, since here indeed 
His subjects be! O fair unsetting star 

[Looking R. 
Thy burning beauty warns us ! Let us go ! 

\The i ST KING casts his mantle over the 
dead Shepherd, as they leave, and 
go out, R. Curtains close slowly 
together, presenting doors to the 
Dwelling of EAGER HEART, as in 
first scene, as unseen alto voice 
is heard singing : 

Prepare your hearts, children, with tender- 
est worship, the purest, the fairest, this hour 
to see ! 

Answered by full choir : 
How shall I fitly meet Thee ? 

Enter EAGER HEART and two SHEPHERDS, 
and YOUNG MAN, lower stage L. They 
stand in doubt. 



EAGER HEART 29 

E. Heart. Nay, it is strange! No turning 

did we miss ; 

The song still guided us ! And now, I find 
Myself upon the old familiar street, 
And all is silent ! 

ist Shep. Are we the simple cheats 

Of a too-fond fancy after all ? 

E. Heart. O friend, 

Dare not to doubt after the thing we heard ! 
My spirit waits in me, till we be shewn. 

Young Man. Me thought there fell a footstep 

even now 

Upon the threshold ! Nay, what forms are those 
In jewelled crown and purple ? Surely, sirs, 
These be no ordinary men ? 

2nd Shep. Mayhap 

They too are seeking for the royal train, 
And miss their way ! See how they stand 

perplexed ! 

Enter KINGS (R.), lifting their hands, and 
gazing on a star, invisible to audience, over- 
head, which sheds a soft white radiance on 
whole scene. 
$rd King. Behold the star that ever goes 

before Him 

Stationary ! It moves not East nor West ! 
That is the pilgrim's Star ! 

\st King (coming forward]. See how its ray 
Streams soft upon us now ! The King is near ! 



30 EAGER HEART 

E. Heart. Great Sirs ! pardon me that I dare 

approach ! 

If ye too seek the King, as by your garb 
And attitude I think ye do, permit 
Our little company to join you. We 
Have wandered far to find Him, eager to lay 
Our simple homage at His feet. 

2nd King. Fair maid ! 

Whoe'er thou art, thou hast not far to seek. 
What roof is this? Whose are these closed 

doors ? 

Thou, as a dweller in the place, canst tell ! 
E. Heart [distressed]. O Sirs, this is a little 

house and mean ; 

A poor maid dwelleth here, of no great name. 
The star points other- where, methinks, not here ! 
ist King. Nay, gentle child ! we go not from 

this place 

Till we have seen the owner of these doors, 
And bid her open ! 

E. Heart. Then, O gracious King, 

Must I confess ! These humble doors are mine ! 

And nothing there- within is worth your glance ! 

[The Kings look at one another. 

2nd King. Dear maid, think us not harsh 

that we persist : 
In the name of Wisdom be those doors flung 

wide! 
E. Heart, [at his feet> and taking the hem 



EAGER HEART 31 

of his robe]. Then must I tell you all 1 

Therein doth sit 

A Stranger, with a Mother and her Child. 
Three souls, upon this bitter night they stood 
Begging of me, for the sake of Him who lay 
In a manger-stall in far-off Bethlehem, 
A little food and shelter ! All my feast 
Lay ready for the King ! O spurn me not, 
That even I prepared a little place, 
Hoping to house Him ! But these needy ones 
I could not leave unfed ... I took them in. ... 

[KINGS lift their hands, and look again 
at each other. 

$rd King \turns to EAGER HEART with a look 
of awe and great joy. He raises her .] Then, 
blessed maid ! we are thy suppliants! Say, 
What is thy name ? 

E. Heart. They call me Eager Heart ! 

$rd King. Eager Heart ! gladdest of maiden 

names ! 

'Tis LOVE commands thee open wide thy door, 
And let the pomp and glory of the world 
Go in to worship ; for the King is here 1 

[EAGER HEART stands trembling, 
wavers, goes slowly up to the top 
step, toiiches the curtains, that part 
before her. She sinks on her knees, 



32 EAGER HEART 

her whole figure bowed, and her 
face hidden in her hands, as she 
sees Mary and the Child, in the 
same position in which she left 
the strangers. They are in ivkite, 
and suffused with light, which 
issues in a glory front the hidden 
Child sleeping on the Mother s 
lap. Joseph stands behind, holding 
forth his right hand, half hushing, 
half welcoming the worshippers. 
A single voice unseen sings : 
I am not worthy ! Can it be 
That thou wilt stoop to dwell with me ? 
That, leaving fame and joys apart, 
Thou com'st, the Guest of Eager Heart? 

Invisible choir answers ; 
O simple souls, obeying Heaven 
Unknowing, unto you is given 
The King in all His joy to see ! 
As EAGER HEART remains kneeling in middle 
of bottom-step, the KINGS and SHEPHERDS 
go up, one by one, from the groups standing 
at either side. IST KING lifts off his 
crown, and offers it before him, as chorale 
is sung by choir invisible : 

Behold the King of all the Earth, 
In mortal likeness of a Son, 



EAGER HEART 33 

Whose perfect glory rules in this 
Father of all, Thy will be done ! 

The gift, O God, Thou gavest me, 
My spirit first receives to-day ; 

I take possession of my crown, 
Which at thy helpless feet I lay ! 
[He stands beside the couch-head, L. 

2ND KING goes up with tottering steps, bearing 
his box of myrrh before him, as unseen 
choir sings chorale : 

Behold th' immortal foe of Death 

In one that is content to die, 
In Life the heir of yielded life, 

Foreshadowed in the family ! 
The prison-house of Time dissolves, 

The inner dwelling Soul is free, 
Learning itself, in narrow walls, 

Essence of Life and Love as Thee ! 

\He stands beside IST KING. 

3RD KING goes up, bearing his censer in his left 
hand, his right hand raised : he looks on 
the Child with a smile of inexpressible sweet- 
ness, as unseen choir sings : 

Behold the Peace of all the world 
In tender likeness of a Child ! 

The gentle sufferers of the Earth 
Have tamed at last her passions wild 



34 EAGER HEART 

In looks that supplicate, in tears, 
In weary, dark desires that rove 

Behold the gateway into bliss, 
Th' Eternal call and cry of Love ! 

\He rises and stands beside 2ND 
KING. JOSEPH beckons IST SHEP- 
HERD to come.~\ 

SHEPHERD'S SONG. 

Sing we, sing we joyously ! 
Here we see, 
Man may be 

Free from offerings of blood ! 
Life of pain 
Is life of gain, 
To the strong and high of mood ! 

Sing we, sing we joyously ! 
[He kisses robe and stands at foot ofcouck, L. 

2ND SHEPHERD goes up and kneels. 
Now no more 
Need bitter war 

Sunder king and serf and beast ; 
Bid them all, 
Great and small, 
To Earth and Heaven's high Birthday feast ! 

Sing we, sing we joyously ! 
\He stands beside IST SHEPHERD. 



EAGER HEART 35 

YOUNG MAN goes up and kneels. 
See to-day 
Soul and clay 

Perfect from the house of strife ! 
Eager Heart 
Here apart 

Sheltereth the Form of Life ! 

Sing we, sing we joyously ! 
[He stands. 

The KINGS and SHEPHERDS look back to EAGER 
HEART. The 3RD KING and YOUNG MAN 
return and lift her from her position, 
with one hand pointing her to the Holy 
Family. The others descend to the second 
and third steps below her. MARY looks 
towards her with a smile of welcome 
and encouragement. As EAGER HEART 
goes forward, her two hands before her> 
outstretched in wonder and love, the Angel 
Choir glows visibly in the background 
through the veil, with their arms upraised, 
as the last sixteen bars of the Pastoral 
symphony are heard. For the first time, 
EAGER HEART, the KINGS and SHEPHERDS, 
see this vision with amazement and joy. 

The curtains slowly close upon EAGER HEART 
kneeling before the CHILD with her arms 
outstretched. The SHEPHERDS and KINGS 



36 EAGER HEART 

gaze after her as men entranced, the closing 

doors leaving them outside on the steps. The 

music grows fainter to the close. The men 

with a sigh begin to descend the steps. As they 

touch the street pavement ', enter, R. and L., 

EAGER FAME and EAGER SENSE, who start 

back, beholding the Kings. EAGER SENSE seeks 

to enter the closed doors, and is debarred by 

the raised arms of the 3RD KING and YOUNG 

MAN. 

Kings. What seek you, noble ladies ? 
E. Fame \hurriedly~\. Sirs, we heard 

'Twas a wild rumour at the city gates 
The King had passed this way. . . . Two 

beggars came, 

And asked an audience of our presence ; but 
None understood their speech! Within their 

arms 

They bore a Child ; and on its infant head 
Men said there was a crown ! What may this 

mean? 
E. Sense {dishevelled}. And, at the banquet 

under the orange groves, 
The ruddy fruit grew pale, the candles dim, 
As suddenly stood the porter there, and said 
A bitter wailing had he heard, without 
From two poor beggars, limping into the night, 



EAGER HEART 37 

Bearing a Child and, on the Child's young 

head 
He saw a living flame ! 

E. Fame. O tell us, Sirs, 

If He have passed this way ? 

E. Sense. That we may go 

And kneel before His feet and worship Him ! 

Kings. " Too late ! too late ! ye cannot enter 



now" 



The doors are shut : the hour of grace is past. 
The King that pleaded vainly at your gates 
This night, hath entered in to Eager Heart ! 

THE SISTERS gaze on each other with dismay. 

E. Fame. Woe for the blindness, then, of 

Eager Fame 

That set her thoughts too high to know the look 
Of Him that cometh in simplicity ! 
Here let me weep my guilty life away. 

\Crosses L., leans aside and weeps. 
E. Sense. Woe for the folly, then, of Eager 

Sense, 

That set her lutes too ravishingly sweet 
To catch the true and tender voice of truth ! 
Here let me weep my guilty life away ! 

[Falls down on steps weeping. 



38 EAGER HEART 

CHORALE [sung- unseen]. 
This proud heart within me swelling 

Is no palace rich and fair ; 
But a dark and gloomy dwelling, 

Till Thou deign to enter there ! 
Ah, how often have I turned me 

From Thy helplessness and spurned Thee ! 

KINGS and SHEPHERDS look on the two with pity. 

$rd King. Nay, Sister, come ! no tempest- 
rain of tears 

Can wash the heart without the toil of deeds. 
Return, and build in thy gates a humbler throne 
Meet for the Lord of wisdom and of love ! 

IST SHEPHERD approaching EAGER SENSE : 

And come with us, dear Eager Sense, to learn, 
'Mid suffering, and the hardness of the world, 
That sweetest vineyards drink the sweat of man, 
And royal bread is kneaded best with pain ! 
Thou in thy palace other joys must make, 
If thou, one day, wilt welcome there thy Lord ! 

The " Gloria " is sung unseen, beginning faintly, 
as the following words are spoken by 

3RD KING and IST SHEPHERD, raising their hands: 

Hark to the heavenly voices, yet again, 
That wake the rising world ! Let us begone ; 
So the great Sun, the Keeper of our Day, 



EAGER HEART 39 

May find us at our doings, even in toil 
Singing with happy hearts the glad Noel ! 

[Exeunt all: the KINGS following 
EAGER FAME, L. ; the SHEPHERDS 
following EAGER SENSE, R. 
The "Gloria in Excelsis" swells 
with a sudden burst, as they go 
out, seeming to welcome them: 
they all hear it with joy on their 
faces: it continues to its end, 
fading at last into the distance^ 

SILENCE 

The PROLOGUE^^S up from audience with solemn 
steps, and addresses all present. 

The play is out ; the faithful feed in bliss ; 
The foolish turn to find true nobleness : 
Say, gentle listener, at this Christmas tide, 
Is your hearth ready? are your doors flung wide? 
Hath He come in with you to make His stay, 
Or hath He passed already on his way? 

Nay, let us enter in, before we part, 
And pray together here with Eager Heart, 
That never, O thou Son of Man ! may we 
Weary of search, or miss of seeing Thee 
In every human form, and human dress 
The Homeless Child of Peace and Righteous- 
ness! 



40 EAGER HEART 

To be sung in unison by audience standing : 

" Veni Emmanuel" 
O come, O come, Emmanuel ! 
And dwell with us, thy Israel, 
That mourn in grief and darkness here, 
Until the reign of God appear. 
Answer: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
(By choir) : Is come to thee, O Israel ! 

O come, thou Dayspring from on high, 
With healing and with purity : 
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, 
And death's dark shadow put to flight. 
Answer: Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel 
Is come to thee, O Israel ! 

O come again, thou heavenly Might, 
That once did shew on Sinai's height 
Thy righteousness, and changeless Law 
O teach us now by love and awe ! 
Answer: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Is come to thee, O Israel ! 



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Buckton, Alice Mary 
Eager Heart